The goods: Atrio at the Conrad is one of those hidden restaurants on the downtown skyline that wouldn’t be out of place in a Blade Runner-esque city like Hong Kong or Shanghai, but in Miami seems to get lost on its 25th floor location inside the swanky Brickell-based hotel. Earlier this summer, the restaurant introduced UK-born Jonathan McCann to revamp the Latin-inspired menu with a British gastropub take. McCann’s 25 years of experience includes steering the ship at 5-star hotels in London and feeding quite a few politicians (including Presidents Bush and Obama) when he ran the kitchen at the Hilton Washington. Prices are in line with the high-end hotel – starters are $9-$16, mains $21-$42 and sides about $5.
Ask for a table by the massive windows and settle in for one of the best deals in the city – the restaurant has extended their Miami Spice menu offering three courses along with a glass of wine (a drinkable white or red from California’s Canyon Road Winery) for a reasonable $37. And they’re not skimping on the choices, offering creative options like crab-stuffed zucchini blossoms, red onion and pancetta-flecked risotto and warm plum tart for dessert. Wednesdays are for wine lovers as all bottles of wine over $50 are half off.
Ambiance: Atrio is an inviting and impressive space with floor-to-ceiling views of the bay and downtown. The plush dining room is less flashy and more cushy – thick carpeting muffles dinner conversation and rusty reds, oranges and dark wood create a soothing environment.
The grub: English comfort food. A watercress salad flanked by a ham hock, quail eggs and a cider dressing evokes rustic farmhouse cooking while the richness of the pan fried foie gras starter is offset with caramelized apples and French toast. Seafood dishes include fat scallops pan-seared and served with a nutty cream corn risotto (pictured). Skip the hot smoked salmon (whose smoky flavor overpowered the fish) in favor of a delicate yellow tail bathed in an orange cardamom sauce. Meat dishes include a slow roasted pork belly and the truffled meat loaf, an old standby reinterpreted for the genteel setting and accompanied by a rich potato gratin.
Verdict: Gussied-up British comfort food and dazzling downtown views at the Conrad’s 25th-floor dining room.